Using the central existential questions of love, death, and beauty as thematic foci, this course examines the premodern history of the human being in Japan with the aim of exploring a different past and an other site for the study of the humanities than the one in which technology and profit maximization have now led to the virtual demise of the human as a viable measure of civil life. In the course of reading literature, both canonical and popular, which portray the thematics of love and death, we will analyze key concepts in Japanese cultural history that address issues of good and evil, truth, and "the beautiful." Attention will be paid to questions of interpretation that arise in reading the works of a culture different from the West in its philosophies and religions; in the non-logocentrism of its linguistic usages and artistic expressions; its emphasis on form and ritual as a crucial component of the moral human being. We will also note the existence of various separate cultures — courtly, merchant, craftsman, samurai and priest, actor and geisha, each with its own hierarchy and code of ethics and aesthetics. Class materials will include, apart from the literary works, secondary sources from criticism, history, philosophy and religion, sociology, as well as visual media like painting and film.